This is Curt Casali’s first spring training with the Cincinnati Reds so the new faces in the clubhouse don’t faze him. Actually, he has an advantage.
Casail, a Vanderbilt University product, is
reunited with former Commodores Sonny Gray and pitching coach Derek Johnson.
“I am excited for the season,” Casali said. “Management has done a good job getting the pitchers that are going to help us. I played with Sonny for three years. DJ was our pitching coach all four years I was at Vanderbilt.”
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The Reds acquired Casali on May 31 last season from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash and made him their backup catcher. He replaced Tony Cruz, who became the backup when Devin Mesoraco was traded to the Mets in early May.
Casali didn’t make the Rays out of spring training and was hitting .274 with four home runs at Durham when the Reds acquired him.
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Casali found a home with the Reds as Tucker Barnhart’s backup. He hit .293 in 52 games with four home runs and 16 RBIs. Defensively, he caught two of the Reds’ six shutouts.
The Reds brought Casali back on a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration, but so far they are taking it slow with him. He had surgery to fix the labrum in his left hip. In the process he lost 12-15 pounds.
“I feel a lot better with since my hip was fixed,” Casali said. “I lost the weight and really feel good but I didn’t do anything different. I guess my body just reset or something. I’m back to my playing weight in college.”
Casali has been participating in catching drills and taking batting practice. Reds manager David Bell is expecting to get him into games soon.
“We will get him into games,” Bell said. “He’ll be ready for the start of the season.”
“I feel I’m ready now. I’ve been doing everything,” said Casali. “I’m just waiting for them to put me in games.”
The addition of Connor Joe and Kyle Farmer — two infielders that can also catch — allows the Reds to take their time with Casali.
“It is fun to watch Farmer,” Casali said.. “I haven’t seen him play shortstop yet but that is a rare talent.”
Casali, 30, was born in Walnut Creek, Calif. but grew up in New Canaan, Conn. He was a high school quarterback, leading his team to the state championship. He also played basketball. His father Lou played quarterback at Columbia.